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JONESIE: Just kill the problem deer, already

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OPINION

My wife and I were driving to our favourite local park last year when I first saw it.

There was tale of a deer in the Gellatly Nut Farm in West Kelowna that was attacking both dogs and people. Up ahead, two pedestrians and their dog walking along the road were finding out.

I pulled our car between the deer and the couple’s dog which were feeling each other out for a fight. The couple themselves seemed oblivious, perhaps because theirs was a bigger dog. They’ve encountered lots of deer before, they told me and never had a problem.

They kinda laughed it off like they were playing.

And I mean, I understand the attitude. Deer are cute and harmless, right?

Marshall Jones, managing editor
Marshall Jones, managing editor

A few weeks later, a doe — I strongly suspect the same doe — killed someone’s dog, trampled it to death in the park.

And do you know what authorities did about it?

They put up a sign warning of a DEER ALERT. In faded blue ink, if you bothered to look closely at it, you’d see that it was for an aggressive deer that killed a dog.

I’ve seen the same deer several times since then, or I strongly suspect it's the same deer. It has a strange relationship with people. It doesn’t appear to be scared, it’s well used to handouts. But it’s unpredictable. Last week, I saw it approach a woman who seemed touched that it would come near her, like a friend or a pet. But its stance didn’t give off curiosity vibes, it looked like it wanted something and I wasn’t sure what it would do when it didn’t get it.

Sometime in the following 24 hours, a woman — was it the same woman? — complained to parks officials that she was attacked by the deer. I don’t know the details of the attack, if she even called it that — doubtful.

Do you know what authorities did that time? They closed off the orchard section of the park. It was behind yellow tape and tall green fences with another DEER ALERT sign. Park closed due to hazard. A parks worker told me the lovely doe was protecting a couple of fawns so they thought it best to wall off that section to protect them.

To be clear: the action was to protect the deer.

I asked the Central Okanagan Regional District about this and they said: Oh we were just putting out a press release.

“Gellatly Nut Farm Orchard Closed,” the release said. “To allow space for deer fawns and their mother to recover and move on.”

Then, by private email, “we are aware that the deer was aggressive toward a park visitor earlier today.”

No indication of that in the release, no warning the public.

A few days later, the park was opened up again. It appeared the deer had indeed moved on. And my guess is it moved down the road a kilometre or two to the Westgate Mobile Home Park because a few days later, a woman was injured and one of her Chihuahuas was trampled to death by an aggressive deer.

What did authorities do? Conservation Officers put up more signs and “conducted public outreach and education.”

They determined it was a “defensive attack” which I guess makes it... acceptable?

I just don’t get it. Were it a dog that killed a Chihuahua and injured a person, the regional district’s rabid Dog Control/Revenue-Generating Team would collect a few thousand dollars in fines, hold the dog in a cage for a few years for ‘process’ and then destroy it.

If it were a bear in that park, no one would put up signs and gates to keep people away from it. We all know what Conservation Officers would do. That bear would be dead before you could say ‘human-wildlife conflict.”

So why the over the top protection for this deer? It’s getting better public relations help from the regional district than Bambi's mom and a long leash for dangerous and violent behaviour from Conservation.

Again, 'deer are cute' seems to be the answer. So are the giant foreign grey and black brontosaurusquirrels that have taken over the nut farm entirely, having pushed out or killed the local species. Dozens and dozens of them run around eating and taking and storing most of the nut crop from the orchard. There’s absolutely nothing that can be done about it, apparently, because nothing has been done.

I presume it’s because we are all so darned sensitive now. Like how Vernon councillors tie themselves into pretzels trying to figure out what to do about geese fowling local beaches. No one wants to make nine-year-olds cry and have to deal with their aggressive mothers trying to protect their young.

Meanwhile, this doe teaches her fawns how to handle humans and their dogs. These aren’t cases of wildlife conflicts in the actual wild. This is in a park. In a residential area. Every day, well meaning big-hearted people interact with them and feed them by hand. They're the worst people. They maintain a perfect score of killing every animal their ego thought existed solely for their amusement and enjoyment.

If there’s one thing we have in abundance, it’s deer (and squirrels). We are constantly in contact and in conflict with them. Not in the wild, but in our parks and backyards. This has been an issue for decades, but still we dance around it.

So fine, if no one else wants to say it, I will. I love deer as much as the next guy, so I’m not proud of it, but common sense dictates.

Stop messing around and just kill the problem deer, already, before someone else and their dog gets hurt.

— Marshall Jones is the Managing Editor of iNFOnews.ca


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